Luke 20:20-26 Seizing On Jesus’ Words.
Given that the apostate Jewish leadership knew that Jesus was speaking against them, and the fear they had of the crowds, they set about to try and lay a trap for Jesus. Others seized on Jesus’ words as words for hope, but these apostates seized upon His words that they might catch Him saying something which they might use against Him before the political authorities (v. 20). These were men who argued for their own religious independence from Rome, yet they sought to bring in that political power to satisfy their religious disagreement with Jesus. They and their “spies” pretended to have integrity when they asked their question regarding the domain of the Caesar (v. 21). Many of their followers chafed at the idea of paying taxes to Caesar, so their question is not surprising (v. 22).
They must have thought themselves to be so crafty, and yet Jesus knew their thoughts, and no one is hidden from Him today either (v. 23). They didn’t dispute His charge that they were simply trying to test Him. Clearly Caesar has the charge for economic interchange, which the coin with His inscription signified. Taxes to the political establishment was part of that which was their due for the role they played in society (vv. 24-25). Of course, His opponents understood this, and they themselves would not dare give Caesar or his representatives any excuse to come after them. In fact, Mathew and Mark record that they were in fact conspiring together with the Herodians, hence the charge of hypocrisy (22:15-22; 12:13-17).*
Thus they had no answer and were silenced in their devious plan (v. 26). However, this gives all who read this account the occasion to understand some basic points. Firstly, not all those who claim to want to heed the word are sincere. Some want to catch God’s people, especially ministers of the word, in a trap that will set them in needless opposition to others, including the State. Secondly, God’s word does have something to say in the arena of politics. In this particular passage we are to understand that there is a rightful place for civil government and taxes to support that governance. Finally, it should not be missed that we must render to God the things that are God’s. If these men heeded this, then they would have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.
* “The alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodians re-emerges (Mk. 3:6). This alliance was possible because both parties accepted the Roman occupation, the former as divine punishment, the latter for political advantage” (NGSB, p. 1586).